Love is a pretty important idea in the Bible. Jesus said that all the commands of the entire Bible could be summed up by the one command to love. I think most people agree that we should be people who love but, who should we love?
The problem is that we are very comfortable with the idea of loving those who are like us and love us. Jesus said that counts for absolutely nothing.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” -Matthew 5:46
Sorry tax collectors, but we are called to a much higher standard of love.
When we consider who God says that we should love, the list is actually pretty short. It is comprehensive, but it is short with a few surprises.
Who does God say we should love?
1. We should love God.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” – Deuteronomy 6:5
This command is repeated again and again in the Bible. According to Jesus it is the most important commandment. God is worthy of all we got.
2. We should love all people.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” -Matthew 22:39
Do we really want to hear what God is saying here? Sometimes, I don’t. The religious people of Jesus day didn’t. They immediately began to try to define who their neighbor was so that their hatred of some people could be justified. Jesus gave them no such justification. Instead, he told them the story of the Good Samaritan. Check it out here.
Jesus deliberately made the hero and neighbor of the story a person of different racial and religious background…a hated person.
Our neighbors are Muslims, Atheists, and Mormons…spiritual backgrounds of all sorts. Our neighbors are Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians…different agendas of all sorts. Our neighbors are straight, gay and transgender. Our neighbors are all races. Our neighbors are all economic classes. Our neighbors are simply ALL.
We are called to love them ALL.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we have to agree about everything. It doesn’t mean that we cannot challenge one another’s convictions. It doesn’t mean that we need to share all the same values or live our lives in the same way. It really doesn’t. We CAN deeply disagree and still love. Despite what some say, possessing different beliefs does not equal hate.
How we treat each other defines love and hate.
I can profoundly disagree with you about things that are deeply personal and important to you and still care for you…listen to you…do good to you and treat you with respect. You can do the same. That is how we love each other. I know that we can do this because we all do it in our own families all the time. We just have to choose it.
Paul gives the classic description of what this looks like for us. This isn’t a wedding ceremony verse…it’s a life verse to be practiced with all people. Check it out here. I challenge you to read it and apply it to all…even #4.
3. We should love foreigners in our nation.
“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” -Leviticus 19:34
It’s amazing how our issues are the same issues that people have struggled with for thousands of years. The answer is the same too, love.
4. We should love our enemies.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” -Matthew 5:44
Just in case you are tempted to leave some people off your good neighbor list, here you go. Love your enemies. Pray for the very people who are trying to hurt you.
5. We should love our spouse.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” -Ephesians 5:25
Yes, I know the command is specific to husbands loving their wives and for some important reasons, but whether you throw them in as neighbors or enemies, Jesus thinks wives should love their husbands too.
6. We should love other Christians.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34,35
This ought to be the easy one. This ought to be a slam dunk. This ought to be our testimony to the world that points them to God. Instead, we often tear one another to shreds over minor doctrine, music, ministry models, and so much more. We do a decent job of loving the Christians right around us who are just like us, but that is the symptom of our entire struggle…loving people different than us.
The list is pretty short. It’s pretty simple. We are expected to obey six specific commands to love. And, it still boils down to the two great commands. Love God. Love People. We just need to remember that is all people…all the time.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -1 John 4:8
“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” -1 Thessalonians 3:12
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